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Contributor Success Guide
Contributor Success Guide 18
Stock Image And Video 101 Turning Pro
Turn Your Creativity Into Cash 3 It’s the Law Copyright, Trademarks,
A Letter from Shutterstock 4 and Marketplace Integrity 39
About Shutterstock 5 How to Work with Models 41
Why Should You Contribute to Shutterstock 6 How to Get Access to Celebrities 45
What Are Stock Images 10 Production Strategies of the Pros 46
Assembling a Team 47
What To Create
10 Ways to Find Trends and Inspiration 12 Resources
What Buyers Are Begging For 15 Glossary 49
How to Maximize Your Proﬁts When Shooting 17
Video: Get Much Higher Royalties with
a Little More Shooting Time 21
The Ingredients of TopSelling Stock Images or Videos 24
Submitting to Shutterstock
Copyright 2014 Shutterstock, Inc. This Guide may not be reproduced, displayed,
published, or redistributed without written permission from Shutterstock. Copyright in
Your First Submission and Application Success 26
each image belongs to the artist that created same or the artist’s designee. All images
used in this Guide are licensed through Shutterstock. Links or references to thirdparty
sites are not intended to be endorsements. Shutterstock is not responsible for the content
Rejection Reasons–Get ALL of Your Photos Approved 31 of such thirdparty sites. Nothing in this Guide is intended to be legal advice. Shutterstock
makes no warranties or representations related to this Guide’s accuracy or its fitness for
Making Money at Shutterstock: Royalties Explained 36
any particular purpose.
About “Sensitive Use” 37Turn Your Creativity Into Cash
Want to earn cash for being creative Do you already submit to stock sites, but want to learn more
techniques for mastering sales Then this is the guide for you. We’ve assembled hundreds of tricks,
tips, and explanations that can help you become a top provider of stock images and video. A Letter from Shutterstock
There has never been a more exciting time to be a member of Shutterstock’s
Today, photographers and illustrators have thousands of creative tools at their
disposal, ranging from digital paintbrushes to affordable HD DSLR video. A global
network of enthusiasts and professionals regularly trades tips and inspiration.
Image buyers are no longer just major publishers and big companies—small
businesses and individuals are licensing images for every use you can imagine.
It’s all happening globally and instantaneously.
At Shutterstock, we want to support artists as they connect with image and
motion buyers in a global, instant, “always on” marketplace. We value our
relationships with our contributors and we want to continue to invest in
With that goal in mind, we created this free guide to being a successful
stock image seller. We hope that you enjoy it and ﬁnd it useful for
building your business. About Shutterstock
Shutterstock is a leading provider of highquality stock photography, vectors,
illustrations, and video to creative professionals around the world. Our current
library contains more than 35 million royaltyfree images and 1.7 million footage
clips. We’ve served more than 400 million downloads to nearly 1 million
customers in over 150 countries since the company was founded in 2003.
Shutterstock supports a contributor community of thousands of photographers,
videographers, artists, and illustrators from around the world. Why Should
In the past 20 years, the business of visual communication
has undergone massive change. Photographs used to be
published in newspapers and magazines once per day
or once per week. Today, there are nearly 3 billion Internet
users consuming visual content 24 hours a day,
7 days per week. Businesses and publishers big and small
ﬁnd themselves in need of more and more visual content.
You can take advantage of this new opportunity by
contributing images and video to Shutterstock. We’re a leading source of revenue for photographers,
illustrators, and videographers.
We’ve served more than 400 million image downloads to nearly 1 million
customers in over 150 countries and 20 languages. According to an
independent survey by a leading contributor website, Shutterstock is
consistently ranked 1 for overall individual earnings among similar
We bring your images and video to customers worldwide.
Each year, Shutterstock invests millions of dollars in global marketing
programs to keep our site a favorite of the world’s image buyers. Our
ads can be seen prominently in search engines, on
leading web sites, and in print around the world.
Our team meets regularly with customers and
contributors at more than 20 leading trade
shows, including shows by HOW, AIGA,
Adobe, TED, and the World Photography
Organization. We travel the globe to
meet and welcome new customers.
Microstockgroup.com, 2013 Microstock Industry Survey, 2/12/2014
Why Should You Contribute to Shutterstock We respect our customers and contributors.
From our transparent pricing model to our simple website
experience, we believe in putting our customers and
contributors ﬁrst. We talk with both every day.
Contributing work is fast and easy.
We maintain high quality standards with a fast and efﬁcient
upload, submission, and approval process. Contributors
can start earning money within 24 hours of submitting
Enjoy the freedom. We don’t pressure you into exclusively
distributing images or video through Shutterstock. Your
content is yours to control to maximize your selling
opportunities and proﬁt.
Why Should You Contribute to Shutterstock We believe in continuous innovation
and the value of new technology.
As a technology company, we ensure that our product teams
are always looking for new ways to improve and enhance the
experiences of both customers and contributors. As just one
example, be sure to check out our iPad and iPhone app
We provide valuable tools and information.
Helpful features like our Keyword Trends tool give you valuable
data to make better decisions about your business.
And our favorite reason artists contribute to Shutterstock
Because it’s fun. Unleash your creativity by joining a
community of thousands of contributors at one of the most
creative marketplaces in the world.
Why Should You Contribute to Shutterstock What Are
Simply put, stock imagery means any art that already exists and is
ready to use. A stock agency maintains a library of images covering
a large array of subjects and licenses those images to customers.
People often refer to “stock photography,” but “stock” can refer to
any type of visual content, including photos, videos, or illustrations.
Thanks to the ease of distributing digital content over the Internet,
stock imagery has grown into a multibilliondollar industry.
Stock can provide you an outlet to license all of those images you
have been creating. More than ever, buyers are looking for locally
relevant images that are highquality and professional. With
Shutterstock’s power to reach art buyers worldwide, we can help
bring your images to the people who want them.
And since images can sell over and over, your creative work can
generate income for years to come. What
To Create 10 Ways
to Find Trends
Images are a means of communication. And just as spoken
and written language adapts over time, visual language does
too. Successful stock contributors keep their portfolios
current and optimized to serve the needs of image buyers.
So where do you go to ﬁnd trends and inspiration Start
with a paper notebook, a tablet computer, a smartphone,
or any desktop, and keep an “idea journal” or “mood
board” of what you ﬁnd. Here are some places to get
ideas for the imagery you create. Social Media and Online Tools.
What topics are trending Who are the most inﬂuential people in
news and culture What causes do they believe in What issues
are controversial How could they be illustrated conceptually
Scan the latest headlines. Are there any common themes What
are the political issues that will carry into the next election Are
there any emerging or inspirational aesthetic or visual trends
Home Furnishings and Fashion.
What colors are most popular What looks were popular in this
year’s fashion shows What styles are popular in home and
What are the coolest new gadget trends on the technology
blogs What types of products and technology make headlines
at the electronics trade shows How do popular products today,
like cell phones or computers and tablets, differ from ones seen
in previous years
What is changing about ethnic and cultural diversity How is your
10 Ways to Find Trends and Inspiration The Calendar.
What are the anticipated news, social, and cultural events that
will be coming up in the next year or two
Your Street, Your World.
What’s different about your neighborhood The local food
Local fashion Architecture Religion Cultural events
There’s increasing demand for “local” and “authentic” images.
Holidays and Celebrations.
What are the popular holidays and celebrations around the
world or in your town
You should never copy the work of other artists. But you should
keep an eye on what’s interesting and new in the world of art,
including photography. What problems, issues, or concepts are
contemporary artists trying to explore What new techniques
are available Take a look at gallery shows, as well as art blogs,
books, and magazines.
Sometimes the old ways are the best. Museums and art
shows that include traditional paintings are great sources
of timeless inspiration.
10 Ways to Find Trends and Inspiration What Buyers
Are Begging For
To maximize your success, you need to understand
what buyers are looking for. We frequently talk to
customers who ask for images with these qualities.
Images that show “authenticity.”
Perfectly posed images of beautiful models are popular, but buyers
tell us every day that they also want authenticity. Images need to
be inspirational, professional, and of high quality, but people and
activities should look natural, relaxed, and “real.”
Images that show cultural diversity.
We live in an increasingly global economy and shared culture.
For years, buyers have been asking stock agencies for images
that reﬂect how culturally diverse our world is in a way that
feels honest and accurate.
Images that show local culture.
Shutterstock serves a global audience. Does a business meeting in
Hong Kong or Rio De Janeiro look exactly the same as one in London
or Rome Don’t copy “popular” images. Buyers want highquality
and authentic images of the world as seen through your eyes.Distinct variations from the same shoot.
Buyers often tell us things like this: “The shot was perfect – but we
couldn’t use it because the person was serious, not smiling.” Or the
image was horizontal, not vertical. By shooting distinct and unique
variations of the same scene, you can give a buyer options while
maximizing sales opportunities from a single shoot.
Thoughtful room for text.
Your images need to have a clear center of interest, but have you
thought about how text might be overlaid on the image Think about
a magazine cover, advertisement, or twopage spread. Where do
photographers leave room for text What techniques do they use –
like shallow depthofﬁeld – to create a suitable space for text
Images that they can’t ﬁnd anywhere else.
We were recently approached by a potential customer
who works for a government agency specializing in
wastewater treatment. She was a regular buyer
of images of sewer sludge. Who would imagine
that Popular themes such as nature, objects,
business, and healthcare may seem obvious
to beginners, but since those categories are
saturated, ﬁnding images of unique subjects
should also be a major part of your portfolio
strategy. These images might not be the top sellers,
but your unique, niche images are up against less
competition, and will help you diversify your portfolio.
What Buyers Are Begging For How to Maximize Your
Proﬁts When Shooting
Even top professionals consider how to save money on production costs to
maximize revenue. Here are the top tips to keep your production expenses low.
Rent—don’t buy—certain equipment.
It’s likely that your camera, basic lenses, and ﬂash are things you want to own. But
studio lighting and other equipment can often be rented in a costeffective way. Top
professionals often rent equipment when the beneﬁts of renting outweigh the cost of
buying, storing, maintaining, and insuring equipment that could be technically obsolete
in just a few years.
Share equipment and studio costs.
If you know other photographers who submit for stock as well, talk to them about sharing
production costs. For example, studio lights can be rented by the week and then shared
among a few individuals. Always remember that whoever signs the rental agreement is
responsible for the equipment in case something is lost, broken, or stolen, so choose
partners who are trustworthy and responsible. Shoot multiple scenes with your models.
There are photographers who develop entire
portfolios around a few models. While it’s best
to use a diverse selection of models, you should
maximize your time when you have models in the
studio. Different sets, angles, facial expressions,
orientations, clothing, and scenarios are all ways to
maximize the return on a single shoot.
Shoot video and stills at the same time.
More and more cameras have HD video capability.
HD video is an increasingly popular stock medium
and videos are often licensed at higher prices than
stills. There are differences between shooting stills
and video, but you can greatly increase your earning
potential by creating both during the same shoot.
Try before you buy.
Photography software can be very expensive.
Thankfully, many companies like Adobe offer 30
day free trials of their software. If you’re not sure if
you’re going to need certain functionality, try out a
few software packages before settling on your ﬁnal
workﬂow and committing to making purchases.
How to Maximize Your Proﬁts When Shooting When you do buy, try to DIY (“Do It Yourself”).
Brandname video and photography accessories can be
expensive. Thankfully, a large number of “DIY” sites have
been created. Sites like CheesyCam.com have tutorials to
create or buy inexpensive versions of popular items like
video stabilizers, dollies, LED lights, and camera sliders.
Get releases and avoid logos and trademarks.
If your images show people or property, they can’t be licensed
for commercial use without a model or property release. They
also can’t be used commercially if they contain obvious logos or
trademarks. Getting a signed release will ensure that you
get the highest return on your work.
Get creative with your space.
You don’t need a 2,000squarefoot studio to shoot sellable
photos. A clean white bathtub can be used creatively to get
object shots on a white background. Many amazing shots
are taken in garages against a small seamless white or black
backdrop. Be sure to pay careful attention to lighting, but
remember that no one can see what’s outside of the frame.
How to Maximize Your Proﬁts When Shooting Take good care of your equipment and sell it
when it makes sense.
There are many reasons to take good care of your equipment.
One reason is that camera equipment such as lenses and
ﬂashes often holds its value very well. If you protect your glass,
you might ﬁnd that you can sell it on eBay for almost
as much as you paid for it. Camera bodies might not retain
their value as well, because new technology comes out
with great improvements.
The most important budgetsaving technique:
run your business like a business.
Be conscious of exactly what you’re spending on equipment,
models, and each shoot. Keeping track of your expenses with a
spreadsheet is a smart way to increase proﬁts. It’s like dieting:
unless you count calories and weigh yourself, you begin to
quickly lose track of how you’re doing against your objectives.
Set realistic goals and plot a longterm strategy for success.
Top photographers also know that their value is often in
creating images, not keywording and uploading. Images and
video can be sent to thirdparty production houses to be
keyworded, retouched, and optimized for sales. Or a paid
assistant can do the same. This approach typically applies to
photographers who create thousands of images.
How to Maximize Your Proﬁts When Shooting Video: Get Much Higher
Royalties with a Little
More Shooting Time
We see increasing demand for video. The rise of Internet video,
mobile video, video advertising, paid TV – and the availability of
inexpensive and easy tools to both create and edit video – have
increased the sales potential of stock footage.
True, it requires an investment of time, talent, and equipment to
shoot, edit, colorcorrect, transfer, and upload clips. However, there
are rewards. Video has traditionally sold at a higher price point.
Royalties at Shutterstock are as high as 23 per download, and your
clips are up against less competition compared to still imagery.
So what can you do to take advantage of this opportunity Many
cameras these days are sold with HD video capability. A growing
number of photographers are shooting both stills and video as
part of their portfolio strategy, even during a single shoot. Here’s what you ideally need to get started in professional video:
An HD DSLR, or a camera capable of creating HD video.
You might already have this. The Canon 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, Canon 7D, and Nikon D800 are popular Digital
SLR cameras for creating HD video. Smaller “Micro FourThirds” cameras, and even compact cameras such as
the wearable GoPro Hero, are also capable of shooting HD video. DSLRs will give you more control and more
lens options, and they are typically more suitable for use with tripods and other accessories.
A stable tripod with a ﬂuid head.
A photograph can be a snapshot of a fraction of a second. A video clip can last a minute or more. Professional
videos are consistently stable and steady, even when panning. For handheld shots, there are various stabilizers
and brackets, as well as “build it yourself” options, to reduce the blur and vibration caused by camera shake.
An extra viewﬁnder or an external monitor.
Video is typically viewed through the small LCD of a DSLR camera. Unfortunately, that makes it
hard to get precise focus as objects are in motion. There are many aftermarket accessories
available for enlarging the view of the LCD screen. One such accessory mounts on the
back of the camera and works like a large loupe or magnifying glass. Alternately,
a small external monitor can also be used with a bracket. Both will give you
more precise focus ability.
Still cameras rely on a single “ﬂash” of light. Video requires
continuous lighting that stays on and stays cool. Lights can
be rented or purchased, but you’ll want colorbalanced
lights that ﬁt the above criteria. Popular models
include cameramounted LED lights and studio
lights made by ARRI and KinoFlo. These kinds of
lights can also be rented.Audio recording devices: microphones and digital recorders.
Shutterstock accepts audio with video clips, but only ambient audio and background noise. Music or
audio provided by third parties (licensed or otherwise) is not allowed. That being said – even for
ambient sounds – “oncamera” audio is typically poor quality. If you want the best possible audio,
get a Zoom H4n or similar dedicated recorder – along with a quality, shotgunstyle or omnidirectional
microphone and a wind shield.
Highspeed or highcapacity storage cards.
Video ﬁles are very large compared to photos, often running a gigabyte or more per clip. When it comes
to speed, most storage cards sold today are sold with video in mind. But it’s worth checking the speed
and size of your cards to make sure you have enough storage and that they’re fast enough to properly
capture and transfer video.
It won’t take much time to ﬁll up your desktop or laptop hard drive with your clips. Having additional
hard drives will allow you to ofﬂoad your videos efﬁciently and will also allow you to move ﬁles between
multiple computers. Always back up your data, too.
Video editing software.
There’s a variety of video editing software out there. Some of the more popular packages are Final Cut
Pro by Apple, Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas Pro, Pinnacle Studio, and Avid Studio. In addition, packages
like After Effects and Photoshop 6 Extended will allow you to apply ﬁlters or colorcorrect your clips.
Research what you need before making a purchase.
Video: Get Much Higher Royalties with a Little More Shooting Time The Ingredients of TopSelling
Stock Images or Videos
They have “commercial value.”
“Commercial value” represents the likelihood that your image or video will be useful to a creative buyer. Since many
images are licensed for commercial, corporate, marketing, or advertising uses, the more attractive and usable an
image is for a broad number of uses – including both editorial and commercial uses – the more it is considered to
have “commercial value.”
They have both literal and conceptual meaning.
An image of a surfer riding a huge wave represents literal subject matter such as a “surfer,” “wave,” and “surfboard.”
But some images of surﬁng illustrate abstract concepts such as “risk,” “adventure,” “excitement,” “danger,” and
more. Images that have both literal and conceptual meaning are more likely to be popular as stock images.
They have room for text.
Go to the newsstand and pick up some magazines. Look at the magazine cover and ﬂip through the spreads.
Look at advertisements. How are designers overlaying text on the images Are the images ﬁlled with
visual clutter and distractions or are they visually simple and clean
Images that inspire an emotional reaction are more valuable than those that do not. An image of a
mountain climber celebrating on a peak can challenge our notions of what’s humanly achievable
and can highlight new levels of aesthetic beauty.
They balance “aspiration” with honesty and authenticity.
“Aspiration” is deﬁned as a person’s desire to be something better. However – in the case of
people – we can’t all expect to be bodybuilders, mountain climbers, or supermodels. Buyers often
want images that balance positive values that we all aspire to with honest depictions that an
audience will feel are both realistic and achievable. Submitting to
Shutterstock Your First
If you have existing images, or if you’re ready to start creating
stock, then joining Shutterstock is as straightforward as
123. We maintain quality standards, but we also have a very
fast and efﬁcient upload, submission, and approval process.
Many of our contributors start earning money within 24 hours
of submitting content. Here’s how to get started with your ﬁrst batch of images (or video):
Read Shutterstock’s submission guidelines.
Our guidelines explain your legal rights and responsibilities, technical
criteria, and what content is appropriate for the collection.
Consider whether your images have “commercial value”
and/or “editorial value.”
“Commercial value” and “editorial value” are deﬁned as the likelihood that
an image buyer will ﬁnd your content useful to license. Is it realistic that your
image would be used in an advertising campaign If the image is editorial in
nature, could you see it being published for news or educational purposes
Images are licensed for many different purposes, but you should think about
how desirable your images might be for different types of editorial
or commercial uses.
Edit your images down to a quality set.
Even the best photographer can be a bad editor, because he or she has an
emotional investment in the photographs. If you’re not sure what your 10
“best” images are, consider consulting other sellers in the Shutterstock or
MicrostockGroup forums for their feedback.
Your First Submission and Application Success Check your photos at 100 – 200.
View your images at 100 to 200 magniﬁcation in order to locate noise,
artifacts, and other defects that might jeopardize their approval.
Include quality metadata and keywords.
For the most part, buyers don’t ﬁnd your images by visuals alone. Search engines
match a buyer’s search terms to the keywords you’ve entered. Better keywords =
better sales. Accurate keywords = better sales. If you enter 2545 accurate,
relevant, and properly spelled keywords for each photo, your chances of success
are very high.
Upload and submit.
Once you’re satisﬁed that your images meet the above criteria, it’s time to submit
Upload your images at http://submit.shutterstock.com and keep an eye on your
email inbox for your ofﬁcial acceptance
Don’t get discouraged.
Many successful Shutterstock contributors were rejected on their ﬁrst
submission. If we reject your ﬁrst submission, keep improving and try again
Your First Submission and Application Success Keywording
Make keywording a routine part of your workﬂow. Your
images will sell better if you put a little extra effort into
writing accurate keywords, and lots of them.
Here are a few tips to help you master the art and
science of keywording.
Think like an image buyer.
Picture the person most likely to download your image. Now, put
yourself in that person’s shoes and think about which words they’d
type to ﬁnd an image like yours. Get speciﬁc.
Use 25 to 45 accurate keywords, and customize them
for every image as much as possible.
As a general rule, try to input 25 to 45 keywords per image. It might
be tempting to upload a batch of images from a single shoot and
label them all with a list of identical keywords. However, if you put in
a little more time to write precise keywords for each image, you’ll
see better sales.
Make your titles and descriptions unique.
Titles should be succinct, punchy, and descriptive of exactly
what’s seen in the image. Make the title as accurate and unique as
possible. For example, if you have two images of dogs, don’t give
them both a title of “Dog.” “White Dog Playing With Ball” and “Black
Dog Eating” will help differentiate the photos. The time you save
when batch editing might result in fewer sales.Don’t spam.
Never label your images with irrelevant keywords in an attempt to get more views.
Remember, the whole idea is to help the right customers ﬁnd your images.
Shutterstock reserves the right to ban contributors who use spam keywords.
Be precise with descriptions of people.
Use as many accurate words as possible to describe your models’ ages, races,
and genders. Take particular care in how you describe someone’s race and
ethnicity. Don’t label someone with inaccurate ethnicities.
Think about concepts and feelings.
A smiling person isn’t just “smiling.” He or she might also be conveying
“happiness,” “joy,” “delight,” “humor,” or any number of other emotions.
Image customers often search for conceptual words like these,
so think about which words might apply to your images and
use those keywords liberally. Use a thesaurus to ﬁnd new
words and a dictionary to spell your keywords correctly.
Keywording Rejection Reasons–
Get ALL of Your
Our reviewers are responsible for quality control and
enforcement of legal and editorial standards. Reviewers
inspect hundreds – if not thousands – of images per
day. The reviewers are trained to inspect with a careful,
professional eye. They are often photographers and artists
themselves. The review process is subjective – but fair.
It is important to keep in mind that you should
never take a rejection personally.
With the goal of getting ALL of your images
approved, here are some of our top rejection
reasons and their associated solutions. Poor Lighting.
“Poor lighting” describes issues with color balance (or white balance);
exposure, brightness, or contrast; or intrinsic lighting qualities such as
the presence of shadows.
How to get the best lighting for your images:
• Take a lighting workshop or watch instructional videos.
• Make sure that you’re familiar with your camera’s white balance
and exposure settings.
• Learn to bounce or diffuse your ﬂash, which often creates more ﬂattering
• Use your camera’s “bracketing” features to shoot with several exposures
as a safety policy against poor exposure.
• Adjust lighting in postproduction, with features such as levels, curves, masks,
and toning features in Photoshop and other image editing programs.
• Calibrate your monitor with a color calibration tool like the
Spyder4Pro to make sure your images are adjusted as
accurately as possible.
Rejection Reasons – Get ALL of Your Photos Approved Composition
“Composition” issues describe an image that is framed, cropped, or composed in a way
that limits its editorial and commercial usefulness.
How to solve composition issues:
• Think about how text might be placed over the image.
• Frame your subject carefully in relation to the edge of the image.
• Avoid distracting patterns.
• Keep crops a little loose to give the customer more ﬂexibility.
• Don’t tilt your camera unless you’re conﬁdent that the tilt adds value to the image
“Focus” issues describe unintentional or inappropriate blurriness in an image, either
caused by lack of focus, motion, or poor lens quality. This is intended to be separate
3 from the intentional or artistic use of motion blur, “selective focus,” and depthofﬁeld.
Precise focus allows you to direct the viewer’s attention. A lack of focus can be
distracting and can undermine the likelihood an image will be accepted or downloaded.
How to solve focus issues:
• Be precise in your focus, shoot test images, and use a tripod.
• Learn how to properly use depthofﬁeld.
• Buy quality lenses, and microcalibrate them to your camera body if that feature is
• Learn how to judiciously use Photoshop sharpening tools such as “unsharp mask.”
• Shoot at a sufﬁcient shutter speed to prevent blur.
Rejection Reasons – Get ALL of Your Photos Approved Dust Scratches
The “Dust and Scratches” rejection pertains to images that have sensor dust,
scratches, or an unclean background. These issues can be easily fixed in
postproduction before your images are submitted to Shutterstock.
How to submit images that are dust and scratchfree:
• Keep your camera and lenses clean. Store them where dust is minimal
and clean them periodically. Take great care when changing lenses
and use the appropriate sensor cleaning kit when necessary.
• If you are scanning negatives, slides, or old photos, make sure that
your scanner is clean and handle your images with care. Add a note
to the reviewer when you submit scanned content.
• If you are photographing an object on a solid background, make sure
that the background is clean and free from any dust or debris.
• Inspect your image at 100 before you submit. If there are any
noticeable imperfections, carefully remove them with cloning tools
or brushes in your image editor.
“Noise” is usually created by oversharpening, ﬁlm grain, dust, shooting
with improper exposure, insufﬁcient light, or other artifacts.
How to solve issues with noise:
• Don’t oversharpen images.
• Shoot with a DSLR, rather than a lower quality camera.
• Use the lowest ISO setting possible.
• Avoid longer exposures.
• Get the right exposure as you are shooting – use a light meter
Rejection Reasons – Get ALL of Your Photos Approved Trademarks
When you take pictures that you intend to sell as stock, you absolutely must not include any distinguishing
visual clues that relate to an an already existing brand, corporation, company, or famous design. If you do,
this could constitute infringement and you will receive the following rejection reason:
Trademark: Contains potential trademark or copyright infringement – not editorial.
The obvious exception here is if you are submitting the image as editorial but if this is the case, remember
that the image should also be newsworthy.
How to solve issues with trademarks:
• Avoid submitting images of isolated subjects which may bring to mind a speciﬁc product or service.
• Remember that isolated elements may have trademark protection. Watch for discernible labels or logos
on items such as clothing, electronics, or background advertisements.
• If your image has questionable elements, remove them in postproduction.
• Familiarize yourself with our list of Known Image Restrictions:
Rejection Reasons – Get ALL of Your Photos Approved Making Money
Technically speaking, image customers don’t “buy” your images.
They “license” them. You still own the rights to distribute and display
your image or video, but a license gives the customer permission
to use your work.
Each time a customer licenses one of your images from Shutterstock,
we pay you a royalty fee. Shutterstock is best known for its subscription
services, but we also sell single image licenses, image packs, enhanced
licenses, custom licenses, and video licenses.
You can see each of our license types and their associated
royalty amounts on our earnings schedule:
http://submit.shutterstock.com/earningsschedule.mhtmlAbout “Sensitive Use”
In addition to our standard and enhanced licenses, Shutterstock provides custom licenses to buyers such as large
advertising agencies. These agencies require more rights and some ﬂexibility in how an image might ultimately be used.
That ﬂexibility may include “sensitive uses.” An example of a “sensitive use” is a healthcare advertisement or political ad.
Many stock image agencies, including many of our direct competitors, include a clause in their license that allows “sensitive
uses.” Unlike those stock agencies, Shutterstock puts you in control. You have the option to decide if you want to participate
in these sales opportunities.
The “sensitive use” clause of our TOS allows select largevolume customers to use images for certain “sensitive subjects”
with the following limitations: Customers must indicate that the image is of a model and used for illustrative purposes only.
Our policy prohibits the use of images in pornography; in ads or promotional materials for adult entertainment clubs or
similar venues; or for escort, dating, or similar services.
If you choose to participate, you will have the opportunity to earn much higher royalties from customers representing the
top ad agencies in the world. “Sensitive uses” will be a small fraction of the licenses secured by these high volume buyers,
but participation gives you full access to the sales opportunities these buyers provide, as well as royalties of up to 120
or more per download.
If you do not want to participate in these sales opportunities,
please visit your account page to change
Pro It’s the Law
and Marketplace Integrity
Copyright is a form of legal protection that gives the authors of a creative work
the exclusive right to display, reproduce, distribute, and ﬁnancially beneﬁt from
the work they create. Authors of artistic works can provide permission to others
to do the same – and can choose to do so for compensation – which is the
fundamental premise behind “licensing.” The right of copyright is found in
most countries’ laws and is respected internationally through conventions.
There is no universal copyright law, and protections can vary by country.
Ideas are not protected by copyright. However, authors’ expressions of ideas are
protected. If an unauthorized person copies original elements of another person’s
photographs or designs, and if those elements are “substantially similar” to the
original work, that person can be held liable for copyright infringement. So what does this mean for you
First, it means that you own your photographs. When you submit them to
Shutterstock, you are providing Shutterstock with permission to license
the images to photo buyers on your behalf.
Second, it means that you should be careful to avoid copying any original
or unique elements of another person’s work. In just the same way that
you have protections and rights afforded to you by copyright, so do other
artists and authors.
The best way to steer clear of copyright issues is to simply focus on
creating original work. Be your own artist. Avoid copying the work of
others. It’s not worth the risk.
When Shutterstock pursues copyright infringement
Shutterstock pursues copyright infringements, including the following:
• Unauthorized use of your images.
• When one contributor copies another contributor’s work.
Copyright issues are taken seriously, since they can result in legal disputes
and they can affect customers’ perception of the integrity of the archive.
Our goal is to have a safe and secure marketplace for everyone involved.
For more on copyright laws in the U.S., see:
It’s the Law Copyright, Trademarks, and Marketplace Integrity What is a trademark
A trademark is a word, name, symbol, or device — or a combination of
these things — that is used to distinguish and identify the source of
certain products or services. An example of a trademark is a company
logo or a design that would be associated with a speciﬁc product or
Like copyright, there is no universal trademark law, and protections
vary by country. Generally, trademark law seeks to protect identiﬁers
of certain products or services so that there is no confusion regarding
their source. We do not accept images which contain trademarks for
commercial use, as they could potentially be used in a way that is likely to
cause confusion of the source of certain products or services — and may
therefore unfairly infringe on the trademark rights of others.
So, how can you avoid trademarks in your work If a word, name, symbol,
or device in your image brings to mind a speciﬁc product or service, then
it may be protected by trademark. If your image contains a trademark,
you must remove the trademark from the image before you submit it for
commercial use. (Editorial use is still acceptable.) It’s as simple as that
For more information on trademark laws in the U.S., please see:
It’s the Law Copyright, Trademarks, and Marketplace Integrity How to Work with Models
When you’re photographing people, don’t simply rely on friends who might
not have the look you’re aiming for. Here are some strategies for ﬁnding
good models who will help make your images successful. Agencies.
In almost any city, you can contact a local modeling agency and hire
professional models for a few hours or a day. This can get pricey, so
consider ways to negotiate for a lower fee, such as offering to take
models’ headshots in exchange for them working with you.
Consider teaming up with another photographer and hosting a “GoSee.”
Use social media to advertise a casting call and let the models come to
you. Hold the casting during a convenient time for a few hours. Call each
model in one at a time to interview them and take a quick snapshot. This
will help you build a database of people to call on when you want to work
with a new model.
Ever pass a person on the street and wish you had taken their picture
Next time you spot someone who you think would be a great subject,
approach them and explain what you do and that you
like their look. Direct them to your website (if you have
one) so they can see your work. Avoid putting yourself in
a difﬁcult or uncomfortable situation with a stranger; the
best models are conﬁdent and relaxed. Before you shoot
the model, agree to a rate at which you will pay them.
Family and friends.
What about the people you know Do you have
photogenic family members who might make good
models From babies to senior citizens, family members
at any age can make great subjects. If you plan to use
family members, including children, please refer to the
section about Sensitive Use.
How to Work with Models Don’t forget the details:
• Model releases. Any photo depicting an identiﬁable person must have a model release for commercial license.
The release needs to be signed by the photographer, model, and a witness. If the model is underage, a guardian
will need to sign the release. You can ﬁnd model releases here: http://submit.shutterstock.com/legal.mhtml
• Compensation for the model. Knowing exactly what to pay a model can be a challenge, but no matter what you agree
upon, be sure to work out this detail ahead of time.
• Set expectations. When you use any model, be sure to explain stock photography and how the images might be used.
On the Shoot
Working with models can be both challenging and rewarding. Here are some helpful hints to make your shoot run smoothly.
• Make sure your models are ready for closeups. Grooming is critical.
Ask your model to come to set with a neutral, fresh manicure, and minimal makeup
and hair product, if any.
• Play some music. This will help your models relax and enjoy their time with you.
• Shoot multiple scenarios and various angles. Move around. Give models various
props, scenarios, and emotions to convey.
• Let your models interact naturally. Try not to overdirect them to avoid
stiffness or awkward poses.
• Shooting from below a model usually isn’t ﬂattering. Try shooting straight
on or from above, looking down on your subjects.
• If possible, hire a stylist. The stylist can also help with wardrobe,
hair, and makeup.
How to Work with Models Photographing Children
Photographing babies and kids can make for fantastic and surprising images.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
• Get permission. This should be obvious, but never photograph a minor without
a parent or guardian’s permission.
• Set expectations. Be sure that everyone understands the many ways in
which images might be used. Be sure to explain Sensitive Use to the parents or
guardians of your little models. Allowing images for Sensitive Use is optional.
• Have an assistant on set. An extra set of hands is something you won’t regret.
Let this person entertain and interact with the kids while you silently move
around the room. The wrangler should be prepared to tell silly jokes, sing, and
dance around the room anything to keep the kids entertained and happy.
• Try not to overdirect your young models. Capture them
while they move around and do the things kids do. Your
images will be more fun and REAL.
How to Work with Models How to Get Access to Celebrities
Special event coverage and celebrity shots are always in demand with photo buyers. Go where the action
is with Shutterstock’s On the Red Carpet Program. Shutterstock will work with you to help you acquire
soughtafter press passes for movie premieres, concerts, sporting events, or political rallies. It’s a great
opportunity for you to gain access to special events, and a way for us to build our photo library.
Learn more about the program here: http://www.shutterstock.com/buzz/ontheredcarpetprogram.
To apply, download the form located here: http://submit.shutterstock.com/redcarpet.pdf.
A few things to keep in mind:
• All photographs taken with Shutterstock credentials will be licensed exclusively to Shutterstock for a period of two
years from the date the photos are accepted.
• Show up on time, dress appropriately, be respectful.
• Identify yourself and your relationship properly.
• Create accurate captions – be careful to properly identify the subjects of your images. Crossreference
identiﬁcations for accuracy; don’t speculate.
• Be respectful of celebrities or other personalities. They are often mobbed by photographers, and over the longterm,
the relationships and the reputation that you create will be more important than any one photo.Production Strategies
of the Pros
The pros in the stock industry have one thing in common – they plan
each and every shoot and know exactly what they are walking into.
Help build up your portfolio by following these simple tricks.
Map out your shoot.
Whatever the concept is, sit down with your team and map out every shot.
Come up with a list of 30 to 50 shots that you aim to capture.
Hold a preproduction meeting.
Teams often meet before a shoot for a “PrePro” to go over lastminute details,
including everything from wardrobe and props to lighting and subject placement.
Have backup equipment.
Have a second camera handy and be prepared for any scenario.
Watch the time.
Keep your shoot moving by following the schedule you
preplanned. If something isn’t working, move on.
Build a strong team.
A retoucher, producer, and stylist will help take
care of everything around you while you focus
on taking pictures.
Stay away from the cliché.
Stock photo clichés are in abundance on every photo site, including
ours. Follow what the pros do, and shoot popular concepts in unique
ways so your images stand out from the pack.Assembling a Team
Leave what you don’t know to the people who do know.
While you might make excellent pictures, your skills might not
be in food preparation, wardrobe, or bed making. Leave it to the
pros (the other pros) to step in and help with those tasks. Finding
and building the right team can be tricky, and it can take a number of
shoots before you feel comfortable working with others. But building a
successful team will make your images smarter and more polished. In this
ﬁeld, it’s hard for one person to do everything alone.
Start by placing ads online or at local art schools. Ask the photo community
in your town, use Craigslist and LinkedIn, and network, network, network. You
might ﬁnd a friend who has always loved to bake and is willing to style food for
you. Or another friend might make a bed like nothing you’ve seen before, so let
them help style your soft goods (pillows, sheets, linens). Rely on your community
and offer to send prints to your helpers so they can develop their own portfolios.
Love food photography but not a great chef Approach new restaurants in town and
offer to take shots of the dishes on their menus. Let them prepare a meal, then snap
away. Making trades like this can help you expand and diversify your
portfolio with minimal costs. Resources Glossary
Do you come across words in the forums or on stock sites that you think you should understand, but
don’t Here are a few terms that will help you get up to speed.
in a microstock collection can come from anyone, from highend
Royalty Free (RF) – Unlike Rights Managed (RM—see below),
professionals to the general public. Shutterstock is commonly
RF licenses have very few restrictions. These images can be used
called a microstock site, though much of our business extends
multiple times by the same customer without additional fees. RF
beyond that label.
images are not given on an exclusive basis and are typically less
expensive than RM. These licenses can be very popular because
Commercial Use – “Commercial Use” refers to images used in
they are easier for a customer to understand and maintain.
advertisements, product packaging, and other channels intended
Shutterstock specializes in RF licenses.
to promote a good or service. Commercial use of an image may
require special permissions, such as a model or property release.
Rights Managed (RM) – One of the original types of licenses,
an RM license grants permission to use an image for a onetime
Editorial (or “NonCommercial”) Use – “Editorial Use”
speciﬁed use. However, if the customer needs the same image
images depict a newsworthy subject or event. Such images are
again, they must pay an additional fee. Sometimes RM images are
usually not appropriate for commercial use. For example, an
licensed on an exclusive basis to prevent others from using the
image of a professional hockey player may be newsworthy, but
it would not be allowable to use that image in an advertisement
without the permission of the subject.
Subscription Shutterstock offers many types of products,
but some of our most popular products are subscriptions. Our
Copyright – Copyright is a form of legal protection that gives
clients can sign up for a monthly subscription, which allows them
the authors of a creative work the exclusive right to display,
3 to download up to 25 images daily. Each download generates
reproduce, distribute, and ﬁnancially beneﬁt from the work they
revenue for you. This creates signiﬁcant sales volume and gives
create. Authors of artistic works can provide permission to others
customers the freedom to be creative.
to do the same – and can choose to do so for compensation –
which is the fundamental premise behind “licensing.”
Microstock – This is an industry term for stock collections
with open submission channels and “micropayment” pricing that
Metadata – Metadata is information (or “data”) about an
appeals to small businesses. Unlike traditional stock agencies,
4 image. For example, keywords describing the content of an image
which are heavily edited and have many barriers to entry, images
are a type of metadata.Sign Up Now
Joining our creative community of photographers and designers is fast and easy.
Sign up now, and you could be earning income from your account in as little as 24 hours.
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